Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020705, Fri, 10 Sep 2010 08:49:41 -0400

THOUGHTS: Parasites
All the recent discussion of Botkin's relationship to Kinbote (and K's relationship to Shade), brought me back to Carolyn Kunin's discussion of Jekyll & Hyde. Carolyn pointed out the parasite theme in PF and related it to VN's lecture on Stevenson, where he whimsically relates Hyde's name to hydatid, "a tiny pouch within the body of man and other animals, a pouch containing a limpid fluid with larval tapeworms in it--a delightful arrangement, for the little tapeworms at least." VN's definition here is quite similar to the definition in Webster's 2nd, so we can imagine that, while researching Hyde's name, VN came across this similar word and noted the fitting connection.

It is apparent, however, that VN's interest in parasites included more than just definitions in the dictionary. When preparing to write PF, he must have looked up info on the bot-fly, and in his 1964 Playboy interview, he provides a "little batch of rejects" discarded during the writing of PF (recently noted by Jansy, I believe). The last of these is a quote from The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 48:558, describing the undesirable nature of tapeworms, which "frequently crawl out of a person's anal canal." I recently tracked down this fairly brief article,* thinking that it perhaps included information on bot flies. It did not. To my surprise, however, it does contain an extensive description of "hydatid disease," which the author calls "one of the most serious parasitic diseases of man." This raises a few questions. Did VN consider using a tapeworm as the parasitic image in PF before settling on the bot-fly? Was he led to this article by a card catalogue entry for "hydatid"? Does this affirm Carolyn's assertion that VN had Jekyll & Hyde in mind when he wrote PF? If so, why did he reject the use of these lines, or any reference to tapeworms/hydatids? Was VN trying to give us a hint by including the reference in his interview?


PS--Has the card catalogue at the Cornell library been preserved? If so, that could be a daunting, but perhaps revelatory research project for someone.

* "Animal Parasites Transmissible to Man," by Willard H. Wright

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com

Manage subscription options: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/